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Lottie Shipley

Lottie M. Wiley was born January 15, 1906, in Jefferson, Ellis County, Oklahoma, the daughter of Effie and James Wiley, a farmer. On October 21, 1926 she married Claude C. Neely (born September 26, 1887/8, in Mason County, Illinois; died July, 1965), a farmer whom she met in Oklahoma. By 1930 they had relocated to Dolores County, Colorado, where they homesteaded throughout the Depression. During that time, Lottie developed an interest in minerals and Indian artifacts. During World War II (ca. 1941-1942) she worked as a prospector for the U.S. Government, searching for deposits of strategic metals. A 1965 ad claiming she had been in business for 22 years (i.e. since 1943) may refer initially to her work for the Government.

Lottie's parents also settled in Dolores County, Colorado and, like her, they became interested in lapidary and minerals. In the March 1947 Rocks & Minerals Lottie (under the name of Lottie Neely) published a promotional article about Gem Village, an informal little community of craftsmen near Bayfield, Colorado on Highway 160 about 16 miles east of Durango. She and Claude had taken a liking to the little town which they visited often; she mentioned “having been to Gem Village numerous times at various seasons of the year…” They (as well as Lottie's parents) had even exhibited lapidary and/or mineral specimens at the second annual Gem Village rock show in September 1946. “Yes,” she said at the end of the article, “I would say life and business could be very pleasant and profitable in Gem Village.”

Among the various Gem Village businesses Lottie mentioned in her article was E. E. Shipley's Mineral House. Shortly after her article was published, Lottie left Claude and married Elias Eugene Shipley. It was the second marriage for both of them; Elias (born in 1892) had come to Colorado sometime after 1940, having divorcing his first wife, Barbara. Lottie immediately joined Shipley in his business, and they ran it together for the next eight years. When Elias Shipley died in 1955, after an extended illness, Lottie became the sole proprietor of their business. In the March-April 1958 issue she stated that she and Shipley had bought their first store license (together) in November 1947.

The Shipleys hired Southwestern Indian craftsmen to cut and process rough turquoise that they had purchased from the owners of various turquoise mines in Arizona and Nevada. Their workers fashioned the turquoise into traditional sterling silver designs. The Shipleys also traded polished turquoise pieces to the local Indians in exchange for finished Indian jewelry. The first ad for Shipley's Mineral House in Lapidary Journal appeared in December 1948. In a 1966 postcard it billed itself as "one of the largest and oldest rock shops in the Southwest."

Lottie Shipley handled mineral specimens as a sideline to her lapidary business. Her November-December 1957 ad in Rocks & Minerals advertised lapidary equipment and supplies, but noted that she also carried a "large variety of specimens and minerals, with a special offer on rare terminated blue barite crystals from Colorado." Her November-December 1958 Lapidary Journal ad offered "a fine collection of wire and crystallized gold from Australia, mined 80 years ago." And her August 1959 Lapidary Journal ad offered "some fine Fairfield variscite nodules that had been in storage for 22 years"--meaning since 1937, when Ed Over made his famous discovery there. She claimed to carry "a wide selection of mineral specimens both for the beginner and for the advanced collector."

Lottie suffered some kind of health crisis in 1956. Her February 1957 ad states: "After six months convalescence and a return to health I have remarried. Our store re-opens on April 15." In that year the ads for Shipley's Mineral House indicate the proprietors as Lottie Shipley Rohde and Byron H[enry] Rohde (1909-1989). Byron was a policeman by profession; he also taught cab-cutting in their lapidary shop. Gem Village was finally incorporated as a town in 1962.

Lottie and Byron took a buying trip to Mexico in 1959. They "made bigtime waves" in the mineral and lapidary business, running ads in most of the leading gem and mineral magazines, but especially in Lapidary Journal where full page spreads offered the P.D.Q. Lapidary arbor and attachments, for which they were apparently the only retailer in the nation.

The business appears to have prospered. In April 1960 they announced the opening of Wampum Wigwam, a store devoted to Indian arts and jewelry right next door to Shipley's Mineral House.

In April of 1964, Byron Rohde wrote an article "Collecting in Colorful Colorado" for Lapidary Journal.

In 1965 Lottie attempted to sell Shipley's Mineral House, ostensibly "due to Mr. Rohde's heart condition," but she failed to find a buyer. By 1966, Lottie's name was appearing alone in her ads, as "Lottie M. Shipley." Apparently she and Byron had a falling out (and subsequently divorced). He then opened his own competing lapidary shop in Gem Village. Lottie incorporated Shipley's Mineral House with her new partner, Gene Johnson, in 1973.

Lottie never remarried; she finally sold the Wampum Wigwam in 1985 and retired, renting an apartment in Durango. She died February 8, 1998, at the age of 92, and is buried in Bayfield alongside Elias E. Shipley and one of his daughters, Gertrude L. Shipley.

Shipley's, Inc. ceased advertising after June 1977 and is no longer in business.

Social Security Death Index.
U.S. Federal Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940.
World War I Draft Cards.
SIMMONS, Beth (2016) Personal communication.
BOURNE, J. N. (1958) With our advertisers. Rocks & Minerals, 33 (3-4), 146.
NEELY, L. (1947) Gem Village, America's only rock colony. Rocks & Minerals, v. 22, no. 3, p. 220-221, 229.
Rocky Mountain News, "Colorado's most Unusual Town Becomes Principal Tourist Lure," Sept. 25, 1955, p. 70.
BENNETT, R. T. (1946) Colorado Gem Village holds second annual show. Desert Magazine, November,p. 29.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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The Mineralogical Record - Lottie Shipley Lottie Shipley in 1955
The Mineralogical Record - Lottie Shipley Shipley's Mineral House in Bayfield, Colorado, 1960s.
The Mineralogical Record - Lottie Shipley 64 x 89 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Lottie Shipley 64 x 90 mm
The Mineralogical Record - Lottie Shipley 54 x 83 mm
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